Melisande told me there were many reasons she had become an actress, but the main impetus had been the contribution of other artists who had inspired her. Like Barbra Streisand singing The Love Inside, particularly the portion that ran from 2:13 to 2:34, her final note in A Piece of Sky, which ran for roughly 20 amazing seconds, Aretha Franklin’s version of Nessun Dorma, which Melisande preferred to Pavarotti’s. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing up a staircase, with both of them impossibly elegant, Luke and Laura dancing in the department store, Steichen’s portrait of Greta Garbo, which had shown Melisande what photography could do when coupled with an artist’s imagination. Lucille Ball eating chocolates way too quickly, getting drunk while advertising Vitameatavegamin . . . Celine Dion’s Le blues du businessman, which showed the French capability for beautifully meaningful lyrics by exploring the frustrations of a typical businessman. Bette Davis in Now, Voyager. Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant in any of their films, but especially Holiday, with their acrobatic stunts, and the exquisitely rendered depiction of the futility of wealth. Garbo’s opening scene in the talkie version of Anna Karenina, where the face of a century appears from within a cloud of train smoke. Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce. Judith Light’s heartbreaking and simultaneously awe-inspiring illustration of a human being’s worst nightmare come to life . . . having your deepest, darkest secret come out on a courtroom’s witness stand. Olivia Newton-John singing If Love is Real, The Right Moment, Reach Out For Me, Don’t Stop Believing, and oh, almost anything. Agatha Christie. The ABC Murders, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Murder on the Orient Express, The ending of Crooked House. Endless Night. Catherine climbing the steps in The Heiress. Jane Austen. Emma. Miss Bates being insulted, and Emma feeling horrible. Elizabeth and Darcy. Munch’s The Scream. Beethoven. Erika Slezak’s Viki splitting into multiple personalities. Erica Kane. Rachel, Alice and Steve. Nadia’s Theme. Garbo’s final scene in Queen Christina. Her walking around the room in the inn, memorizing it, savouring it with John Gilbert looking on. The weird, fascinating relationship between Iris and Mackenzie Cory. Michael Jackson. Moonwalk. Carol Burnett. Eunice. Shakespeare. If you prick Shylock, does he not bleed? Dynasty. Pamela Sue Martin. Joan Collins. Linda Evans. Dallas. Larry Hagman, Linda Gray. Barbara Bel Geddes, Victoria Principal. All in the Family, Three’s Company, Friends. Meryl Streep, off camera and on. Julia Roberts. That infectious laugh. The piano scene in Camille. Norma Shearer. Old Hollywood. 1924-1950. Karen Carpenter. Rainy Days and Mondays. Her bottom register. Ballads. Tanya Tucker. 13 years old. Delta Dawn. What’s Your Mama’s Name? Amazing. Dolly Parton. I will always love you.
Why was such artistic beauty allowed in the world? Why were wretched human beings allowed to create such magnificence, and then retreat into sin and deviance . . . maybe to give us a taste of divinity so that we are better prepared for it in the next life if we are worthy enough to be present for it?
There were times when she felt she had heard songs before they had even been released, like Toni Braxton’s Unbreak My Heart, Celine Dion’s In His Touch, Sawyer Brown’s The Race is On, Shelby Lynne’s I’ll Lie Myself to Sleep. Melisande always wondered why these songs were so familiar to her when there was no possible way she could have heard them before they had even been released. She wondered if before we come to earth, we preview our lives before accepting our personal tests.
Melisande wished she could sit everyone down and make them listen, see, feel these magical moments. She was very glad she’d become a successful actress. She knew she couldn’t do what these artists had done. But she could appreciate it.